Picture of Playable Cardboard Ukulele...
This Instructable will show you how to create a playable soprano ukulele from cardboard and items found at your local hardware store (plus some tuners and strings).

A video of the cardboard uke in action can be found on YouTube.

Step 1: Materials...

Picture of Materials...
Items you need for this project:

Several large shipping boxes made from corrugated cardboard.  The tighter the corrugation the better.
Several sheets of non-corrugated composite cardboard like cereal boxes or the back of notepads
2 fully threaded bolts or a threaded rod
4 geared guitar or ukulele tuners with flanged bushings
1 set of soprano ukulele strings
12 1.5" long cotter pins
2 small hinges
1 bottle of wood glue
2 wood screws (1.5 - 2 inches)

Sharp hobby blade
Measuring tape/Scale
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ExistentialTinkerer42 made it!23 days ago

Plus cutaway! (Unstrung to show design) Great instructable! Thx!

KellenH2 months ago

It turns out, the strings are soo tight that it bent the neck flat. What am i supposed to do?

I used some pine paint stirrers as a makeshift "truss-rod" dunno how you would implement it if you've already made the neck though...

thanks, i will try to make another neck and re-attach. do you just glue the paint stirrer to the bottom of the neck?

You saw out another neck segment but instead of the cardboard you use the pine.(See below) Sorry for not getting back earlier, Good luck! :)

KellenH made it!2 months ago

Plays just like a real one! I dont regret making this as a summer project!

merritt212 made it!6 months ago
Quick version, thanks for the instructions
eplunkett (author)  merritt2126 months ago
Yay! Thank you for sharing!
I completed the ukulele (with changes) i had to make the neck out of a chair i found because someone stepped on the card board one and broke it. I used bamboo twigs for frets and used a picture hanger for the string base. And of course, Bob is the only suitable name for a home made ukulele :)
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how did you make your tuners

I just trimmed up some sticks and drilled some holes into said sticks. I just drilled the slots and peg holes into the head with my drill.
eplunkett (author)  the "wow shammy"2 years ago
I don't know how I am just seeing this now. I like the friction tuners. I've been doing some brainstorming about how to make some hardware store "friction" tuners compatible with cardboard. Not time to experiment right now. Maybe one day. I like your improvisation.
azrin.noor1 year ago

can we replace the nylon string with the guitar string?

mbeveridge made it!1 year ago

I helped my daughter make it for a 7th grade science assignment. We had to modify because she could only use "recycled" items and no musical instrument parts. We used different weights of nylon fishing line for the strings, toothpicks for the frets and eyebolts and nuts for the tuners. The only thing we bought was the small hinges. The "paint" job was done using food coloring and shaving cream on thin stock that we attached to the composite board before putting it together. (We did have to make the neck thinner.) When it was all together, it worked great!!!! My daughter was so happy! She wants to make more: one for her orchestra director (a ukulele fanatic) and for herself but this time using the instrument parts.

Thank you so much for creating this Instructable!!!!!

On a separate note, do you have any suggestions for a cutting utensil? We used an Exacto knife but had an extremely difficult cutting through the layers.


I've used this cardboard cutter with my students... takes a few weeks to come in but works quite well.

eplunkett (author)  mbeveridge1 year ago
Awesome! It looks amazing! I'm so excited to hear about your improvements to the design... The tuners and strings are exactly the updates that I wanted to make to the design so that it would be totally possible to build without buying any ukulele specific hardware. A trip to the "Fix-n-Feed" could get you everything you need. Hope she does well on her project and I am very glad you shared with me!

P.s. Love the colors!

A+, thank you! And it was the only instrument that met the criteria being heard from the back of the room AND gave her extra credit for also being able to play a tune that was recognizable. Her orchestra instructor also was impressed. I believe his exact words were "very cool!"

eplunkett (author)  mbeveridge1 year ago
Oh yeah, I used an exacto blade to cut it, but just because that's what I had. Someone said they were going to try to lay it up and glue it and then use a band saw or scroll saw. No reports back on that. I've built 3 and I used the exacto on all of them.

Okay so I have Three questions,
1) What size hinges are you using?
2) How thick are the threaded bolts/ nut you used?
3) I'm considering also having the uke electric, are there any directions to construct it in the electric format you have available for me?
Ps Awesome instructable c: Thanks!

jnovoa3 made it!1 year ago

Came out pretty good in my opinion though I used pencils with notches in them for the nut and bridge and toothpicks for frets. There is quite a bit of a curve on the neck because I rushed to get the strings on I guess but it's still playable. :D

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avella11 year ago

can you use hot glue gun

thanks im really interested in this project

avella11 year ago

can you use hot glue gun

thanks im really interested in this project

ahauta1 year ago
I started my own and its coming together very easily and quickly. Thank you very much for this instructable. Very clear helpful and informative.
eplunkett (author)  ahauta1 year ago
Glad to hear you've started one.... Post some pics when you've got it all done!

thank you so much for the instructable.. Very simple and easy to do. I did cut myself but its all good because I can now say that I made a homemade instrument and not just any one, but a freakin ukulele!!!!!!!

eplunkett (author)  breanashalice1 year ago
Sweet, glad to hear you made one! Do you have any pics you can post? I would love to see them!
jfrost81 year ago
Hi, thanks for this instructable, it looks awesome! I´m trying to make it now but i´m a bit stuck on step 11/12. the neck is way too thick, I can only fit about 6 on there. should I cut the notch wider or leave out some pieces? Also what´s the difference between the a and b neck pieces, is it important?
thank you
eplunkett (author)  jfrost81 year ago
Did you get your issue figured out? Sounds like your using some thick cardboard for the neck. It's probably okay just to trim the neck pieces and fit the 6 of them in there.

The a and b pieces are differently shaped in order to simulate a rounded neck. It's not necessary, but will be easier to play.

Sort of...I measured how many pieces made a normal neck size and used that. The uke funcioned after some adjustments but the cardboard is far too weak for the string tension, bends like crazy, even after attempts to brace it with small pieces of wood on the sides. I think I need to make the neck from wood. How did yours not bend? Thanks for the reply :]

This is awesome! Planning to build this Classic cardboard ukulele. Will post pics soon.

-Lloyd of Philippines
isaakol1 year ago
I don't know what I did wrong but the neck of my ukulele is not more bended because of the tension of the strings... do you think you have a trick to make it bended again
isaakol2 years ago
it worked!!! i carved a little bit my fret board and the note is right.

here's a photo of my ukulele
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eplunkett (author)  isaakol2 years ago
Awesome! Looks really goo! I'm glad it worked out and thanks for sharing your picture!
isaakol2 years ago
i will try this and i will tell you if it work
isaakol2 years ago
but i don't think its a fret problem. i think its more a problem of hight of the string (sorry if its bad... i'm a french canadian)
eplunkett (author)  isaakol2 years ago
Looks like you are probably right... Your measurements look good. Are your frets glued down? I found that a few of my frets were sticking up and would touch the string at the wrong time. If you put a straight edge across all the frets you can pick out the high ones. Also, you can try to shim the bridge a litter higher if this is the problem as it will make it slightly less likely that the string will touch other frets.
isaakol2 years ago
nut to bridge: 33.5cm
nut to first fret: 1.880cm
BenBurge2 years ago
I'd made one from your directions awhile ago, but never got around to posting it!
I installed a little piezo pickup too!
I also printed of my my favorite band's singer on the front, and even got it signed!
Awesome instructable!
(the image uploader's being glitchy, but here's a link to some pics! http://imgur.com/o42Cgl1,R6A7gAg,OOz6oG8,UZIhVGW )
eplunkett (author)  BenBurge2 years ago
Cool! I also built an electric version Flying V style with a piezo pickup. The guy at radio shack told me it wouldn't work, but it works wonderfully. Glad to see it has worked for you too... Like the special touches!
isaakol2 years ago
thank a lot for this instructable. it was awesome to create this ukulele from cardboard and it work perfectly. except one little problem... I tuned the strings and all but when I press a fret, its not the sound that is supposed to be. do you think you can help me with this?
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